Palestinians in Iraq

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

UNCHR says Palestinians at Syrian border need medical facilities

A UNHCR team visited Al Waleed on Sunday and found that the tented camp is overcrowded and many people are suffering from respiratory and other ailments that need proper medical treatment. But the nearest hospital in Iraq is located four hours away by car and the road runs through dangerous territory. At least three people, including a six-month-old baby, have died from treatable illnesses since the camp opened. Living conditions are likely to get worse during the summer months. Temperatures of more than 50 degrees Celsius have already been recorded this month, while sandstorms are another regular hazard. International aid agencies, including UNHCR, are not allowed to maintain a presence in the camp due to security reasons and so they must visit during the day and can only visit on an infrequent basis. Water is trucked to the camp daily, but this is rationed to less than one litre per person because of the increasing numbers of Palestinians fleeing to Al Waleed to escape threats and attacks in Baghdad. More are expected.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Fire in al-Tanf camp injures 28

A fire swept through the Al Tanf refugee camp in no-man's land desert area between Syria and Iraq on Tuesday night, leaving 28 Palestinian refugees injured. "Within one minute the tent was a fireball. We had seconds to pull our families out of the surrounding tents, which are one metre apart," said a Palestinian refugee who lost everything in the fire. "There was no time to take anything. Our children were sleeping. My neighbour has serious burns because he went into the burning flames looking for his child who had already run out of the tent. Everything is lost, including our hope in life." The fire was apparently caused by a spark from an electric cable in a tent which ignited a diesel can and gas cylinder. The flames spread rapidly, fanned by strong winds. Border guards two miles away said they heard several loud explosions as gas cylinders and televisions exploded in the flames. Fortunately, the previous day UNHCR had brought in extra oxygen canisters for five asthmatic refugee children suffering from the swirling sand and dust around the desert camp. These supplies were used to help over thirty people, mostly children, suffering from the inhalation of toxic smoke fumes. Seven tents, personal documents and all the possessions of seven Palestinian families who have been stranded at the camp for the past 11 months were destroyed in the blaze. "This is the second time a fire has broken out in this camp. It is an example of how inappropriate and dangerous this place is for humans to live in and underlines the need to move these refugees to an appropriate and safe place," said Laurens Jolles, UNHCR's Representative in Syria. "This was an accident waiting to happen. In the winter the refugees have endured flooding; now the heat is becoming unbearable and we can expect tragedy upon tragedy to follow if we do not find a solution for these people."

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

US official discusses resettlement in Kurdistan or OPTs

"Palestinian refugees are the most vulnerable population [in Iraq] with no where to go", said US Department of State Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees and Migration Ellen Sauerbrey in a press briefing Monday about the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Displaced Iraqis held in Geneva last week. Sauerbrey added that the estimated 15,000 Palestinian refugees inside Iraq are "the most difficult situation we are dealing with". Sauerbrey said her administration is talking to Kurdish officials and the Palestinian Authority to resettle those refugees, but no outcome has been reached so far. She said the Palestinian officials she talked to have told her that "they view this issue as unique" and they are requesting the settlement of those refugees in the Palestinian territories.

Palestinians threatened in Anbar

IRIN reports that Palestinians living in Anbar have come under increasing pressure from militants to leave or be killed, according to NGOs and Palestinian sources. “Palestinians had been looking for safety and had found it in Anbar province but now they are being targeted [there also]. The threats they have received are an effrontery against the feelings of Muslim Arabs. They have nowhere to go and might be killed if they try to go to another place,” Mahmoud Aydan, a media officer for the Ramadi council, said. “We believe that there are about 150 families taking refuge in different cities of Anbar province but they haven’t been registered with the National Food Programme which makes it harder to know their exact location.” Ahmed Muffitlak, spokesman for the Baghdad-based Palestinian Muslims Association (PMA) said he was concerned about the fate of Palestinians in Anbar province after militants left threatening notes on the doors of Palestinians taking refuge in the area. “At least 17 families have fled Ramadi after militants gave them a week to leave their homes or become the next victims of violence in Iraq." Muffitlak is in Ramadi trying to persuade the local authorities to protect Palestinians.

Ahmed Raki, a 43-year-old Palestinian father of three lives in Ramadi. “There are dozens of [Palestinian] families living with Iraqis in Ramadi, Fallujah and al-Qaim and the threats have been delivered to their homes. We don’t have money, goods and some elderly people are very sick, requiring urgent medical assistance. But they will be forced to flee the area to save their lives. Two girls from our community were raped last week by militants who told them that it was a message to the Palestinians in Anbar to leave the area,” Raki added. “I have to leave before my two daughters meet the same fate.”

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Palestinian killed in Baghdad explosion

Mohammad Shihada left Al Baladiyyat compound in Baghdad, this morning, to go to Al Yarmouk Hospital to conduct medical checkups and receive medications for a chronic disease. He was killed, along with his Iraqi nephew, in an explosive charge apparently left on the side of the street.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Sandstorm at al-Tanf camp

WAFA reports that the Palestinian refugee camp at al-Tank on the Syrian-Iraqi borders was exposed on Thursday to a sand storm resulting in the uprooting and tearing of tents.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

UNHCR conference makes no decision on Palestinians

IPS reports that no decision had been reached by the end of the UNCHR Geneva conference on the status of the refugees who were in Iraq prior to the invasion, especially that of some 15,000 Palestinians, whose plight High Commissioner Antonio Guterres described "the most dramatic and frustrating situation we have at the moment," he said.

Civil society sources said that the United States is trying to interest Latin American governments in granting asylum to groups of Palestinian refugees from Iraq. The U.S. delegation at the conference admitted that its government has already made contact with the Brazilian authorities towards that end.The Middle East Times says that a US official attending the conference would not be drawn into saying what seemed to be implicit - that Palestinians are not being considered for possible resettlement under the expanded American allotment of 25,000 places for this year - but said, "don't forget, there are also Sudanese refugees in Iraq, too." The same official said America would consider any cases for resettlement submitted through the UNHCR.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Palestinian refugees in India protest at UN

Palestinian refugees in India staged a sit in outside the UNHCR office in New Delhi today. Istasar Mustafa, one of the protesting refugees, said she had fled from Iraq a year back due to attacks on her community by the militia. "We are Palestinian refugees from Iraq. We were facing a lot of persecution from different militias in Iraq. We fled from there and arrived in India. We are facing problems here. We are here to ask for a solution to our problems." Around 160 Palestinians from Iraq are seeking refugee status in India and are struggling financially as they are no allowed to work.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Yemen to champion Palestinians at UNHCR conference

Yemen will be participating in the UNHCR Geneva conference on refugees from Iraq. The head of the Yemeni delegation to the conference Ameen al-Yousfi said that the Yemeni delegation would particularly "concentrate on the matter of the Palestinian refugees in Iraq."

Palestinians protest at Iraq-Syria border

758 Palestinian refugees who are stranded at al-Waleed on the Iraq-Syria border have staged an open sit-in since 12 April to draw international attention to what they say is their ongoing suffering. “Our situation is getting worse from day to day, yet no one sees what we’re going through and helps us get through this ordeal,” Qussai Mohammed Saleh, a 32-year-old Palestinian refugee. Saleh said the refugees were tired of short-term solutions to their predicament. “We’re refusing all assistance. The solution to our problem does not lie in giving us assistance. We rejected two truckloads of aid two days ago, donated by an Italian aid agency. It’s been raining cats and dogs for the past two days and the heavy rain has filled our tents with water. We demand that Arab and international leaders take an immediate decision about us. There’s only one goal for us and that’s to get out of Iraq as soon as possible without being hurt. We’ll continue with our sit-in until we achieve this goal.” Another 826 Palestinian refugees are scattered in three other makeshift camps.